God’s mission in the world includes you. Uniquely you. Specifically you. Think through those statements for a moment. God—the Lord of the universe, sovereign over all nations, creator of all humankind, allpowerful, all-knowing, everywhere present—has a mission that includes you! You—created in God’s image but rebellious, given the gift of life but still a sinner—are given the invitation to do the mission of God in the world. For some reason beyond our comprehension, God has decided to do his work through us. Author and missionary
Elisabeth Elliot states it beautifully:
Next to the Incarnation, I know of no more staggering and humbling truth than that a sovereign God has ordained my participation. . . . God has arranged things in such a way that His own action is coupled with the action of human beings. The Bible is replete with examples of a loving and powerful God choosing sinful and weak men and women to accomplish His purposes, allowing them the dignity to act in freedom and thus have a willed part in what He does.
To be an integral part of God’s mission in the world is an overwhelming and glorious thought. But what is this mission? I like simplicity, so I’m drawn to verses or quotations that summarize all of life in a few words. Some examples include the following:
- The commands to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” and “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:37, 39).
- The question that includes the answers: “What does the Lord your God ask of you but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul” (Deuteronomy 10:12).
- And the summary of living what God calls a good life: He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. (Micah 6:8)
These and other passages envision a life of obedience as followers of Christ. But they still don’t spell out for us God’s ultimate mission in the world—the mission that he invites us to join.
JESUS’ ELEVATOR SPEECH
When you search the internet for the words “elevator speech,” this definition appears: “An elevator pitch, elevator speech, or elevator statement is a short description of an idea, product or company that explains the concept in a way such that any listener can understand it in a short period of time. . . . The goal is simply to convey the overall concept or topic in an exciting way.”
If we want a simple, concise understanding of God’s global purpose and his mission, and we want a verse with a clear statement of how we join God in his mission, I suggest we turn to John 3:16—the verse that is arguably the most famous, most quoted, and most familiar verse in the Bible. Jesus’ ultimate elevator speech is: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
Biblical commentator William Barclay underscores the fame of this verse: “All great men have had their favorite texts; but [John 3:16] has been called ‘Everybody’s text.’ Herein for every simple heart is the very essence of the gospel.”
Others describe John 3:16 as “the North Star of the Bible. If you align your life with it, you can find The Way home,” “the very foundation of my faith,” “the Mount Everest of Scripture passages,” and “the Continental Divide of Scripture, the International Date Line of faith . . . the alphabet of grace.”
The writers of the New Bible Commentary summarize John 3:16 beautifully: God’s love is universal, the expression of that love is sacrificial, and the purpose of it is
eternal life for believers, who must otherwise perish. They write, “It is no wonder that this verse has been described as ‘the gospel in a nutshell.’”
The verse does indeed ring with the awesome sound of being loved by God, the universal song that encompasses the whole world, and the music of salvation through the gift of Christ’s sacrificed life. But I sometimes fear that we can rattle off the words from memory without actually dissecting the phrases or contemplating the implications. The verse has had a grand effect throughout Christian history, but what does it mean in our here and now? How does it fit in the concept of God’s mission—and our joining in God’s mission—in the world?